St. Petersburg survey seeks to discern future needs for aging population

ST. PETERSBURG — The questionnaires started landing in mailboxes all over the city several weeks ago. Eight pages of questions aimed at residents 45 years old or older, asking about everything from their homes to their finances to their hobbies and medical care.

Although St. Petersburg has long had a reputation as a haven for elderly retirees, this marks the first time anyone has attempted such a comprehensive survey of its aging population, said Jennifer Salmon of the Aging Research Group in Gulfport, who is overseeing the research.

The goal: Use the answers to the 77 survey questions to figure out what the city's older residents might eventually need in city services, she said. For instance, she said, "it would be good to know where in the city we might need another senior center."

The 13,700 questionnaires went out to randomly selected addresses all over the city in the hopes of getting back at least 2,000 evenly spread across the City Council districts, said Jay Morgan, manager of the city's Office on Aging.

The instructions ask recipients whether there is anyone in the household 45 or older. If the answer is no, then the survey should be returned blank. If the answer is yes, then that person should fill out the form and send it back.

The age criteria is aimed at capturing the baby boomer generation as well as those who are older, Salmon explained.

Questions range from family and social life to employment and recreational pursuits. "It's a pretty comprehensive survey," Morgan said.

This is a survey Salmon's group has already conducted in Hillsborough County and other areas of Florida, but never for St. Petersburg.

"We never had the money to attack it," Morgan said.

But the new chair of the city's Commission on Aging is an employee of Bon Secours Health System, a $2.9 billion nonprofit Catholic health system that owns, manages, or joint ventures 18 acute-care hospitals, one psychiatric hospital, five nursing care facilities, four assisted-living facilities and 14 home care and hospice programs. She persuaded the company to pay 80 percent of the estimated $40,000 tab, making the survey possible, he said.

The survey will conclude in mid April, and Morgan said there may be some followup research on some segments of the population. He said the city and Salmon hope to present the full results at a conference in St. Pete Beach in August.

Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg survey seeks to discern future needs for aging population 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 5:30am]

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